Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 01, 2011

Shots Fired at Market Place Mall

Two people are hospitalized after a shooting at Champaign's Market Place Mall.

Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney says police officers were at the mall late Sunday afternoon, responding to a vehicle being recklessly driven around the mall, and a person exiting the vehicle with a gun. At around 4:45, one male fired multiple shots at another male outside the mall near the LensCrafters shop.

"When they got to that particular area, they encountered an armed subject who had shot and was continuing to shoot a subject who was laying on the ground," Finney said.

Several law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting, including officials from the University of Illinois, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, the Urbana Police Department, and the Illinois State Police. Finney said the shooter was injured after two police officers fired their weapons.

The two injured individuals were taken to Carle Hospital for treatment, but Finney wouldn't release details about their conditions. He said several people were taken into custody as persons of interest, but no charges have been filed.

Theresa Pickett of Hoopeston was in a department store with her family when the shots rang out.

"We were toward the back of the store, and all we could see were people coming back and the employee was like you need to go to the back of the store," Pickett said. "There was a shooting. And so everyone started running and screaming. It was awful."

There are reports that shots were also fired inside the mall, but Finney couldn't confirm that information.

The shooting occurred on the same weekend during which Champaign hosted thousands of visitors attending Roger Ebert's Film Festival, the Illinois Marathon and a statewide school math tournament. Mayor-elect Don Gerard said the shooting was a tragedy that "punctuated what was an extraordinary weekend for Champaign."

In a statement, Gerard said: "My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims' families. I am thankful for the swift response of our first-responders and the units which support their efforts in such unfortunate times of crisis."

Finney said police are still exploring the motivation behind the attack, but he said there is no evidence to suggest that this was a random shooting.

People with information about the shooting should call Crime Stoppers 217-373-TIPS or Champaign Police 217-351-4545.

(Photo courtesy of Mitch Kazel)


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 30, 2011

Indiana Governor to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels announced Friday he intends to sign a bill that will cut $3 million in state funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana, saying both he-and most Hoosiers-oppose abortion.

"I will sign HEA 1210 when it reaches my desk a week or so from now. I supported this bill from the outset, and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position," Daniels said in a written statement. "Any organization affected by this provision can resume receiving taxpayer dollars immediately by ceasing or separating its operations that perform abortions."

Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said the lost funds will affect everything from providing healthcare services to just keeping the doors open in some areas of the state, including three offices in Northwest Indiana.

Cockrum says about a $1 million goes directly to provide services to low-income Hoosiers.

"It's pap tests, it's breast exams, birth control. It's STD (sexual transmitted disease) testing and treatment," Cockrum said. "This is just an alarming direction for public health policy in the state of Indiana."

Cockrum said the state could also cut off funding for emergency abortions in cases of rape or incest, as well as when giving birth endangers a mother's life. She noted that if these emergency services funding are cut off, her not-for-profit organization will head to court.

"We will immediately file for judicial review and seek an injunction," Cockrum said. "We do not intend to let our patients down."

In addition to funding cuts, HEA 1210 bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Daniels said non-abortion healthcare needs of women in the state will not be affected.

"I commissioned a careful review of access to services across the state and can confirm that all non-abortion services, whether family planning or basic women's health, will remain readily available in every one of our 92 counties," Daniels stated. "In addition, I have ordered the Family and Social Services Administration to see that Medicaid recipients receive prompt notice of nearby care options. We will take any actions necessary to ensure that vital medical care is, if anything, more widely available than before."

Daniels' decision does come with political overtones. He did not openly campaign for the bill's passage through the Indiana General Assembly, and once called for a "truce" on social issues. At the time, he said lawmakers should concentrate on budget issues.

By signing the bill, he's likely to secure additional support from conservatives who oppose abortion. Daniels is mulling a run for the Republican nomination for president.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 29, 2011

Law Enforcement Urging Residents to Leave the Flood Zone

Sherriff's officials in southeast Missouri are urging residents near the Birds Point Levee to clear out.

Law enforcement was busy Friday afternoon ordering the area's 200 residents to leave the flood plain while the Army Corps of Engineers weighs a decision to intentionally break the Mississippi River levee.

The move is aimed at reducing pressure on the flood wall protecting the upriver town of Cairo, Ill.

The land is sparsely populated, and many residents had already left as the corps began moving equipment into place to break the levee. That break is expected to send water over 130,000 acres of farmland.

The state of Missouri has fought the plan, but the corps says it's monitoring river levels and may not make a final decision on a break until the weekend.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 29, 2011

Judge Gives OK to Break Missouri Levee

A federal judge on Friday gave the Army Corps of Engineers the go-ahead to intentionally break a Mississippi River levee in southeastern Missouri to spare a flood-threatened Illinois town just upriver.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr.'s ruling followed a five-hour Thursday hearing over Missouri's bid to halt the possible intentional levee break.

The corps has proposed using explosives to blow a 2-mile-wide hole through the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri's Mississippi County, arguably to ease waters rising around the upstream town of Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

The corps halted its preparation for the break Thursday, saying it needed until the weekend to assess whether a sustained crest of the Ohio at Cairo would demand the extraordinary step.

The river's crest at the Cairo flood wall could reach 60.3 feet - nearly a foot above its record high - as early as Sunday, corps spokesman Jim Pogue said. The wall protects the town up to 64 feet, but there's concern the crest could last up to five days, putting extra pressure on it.

Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee all want the corps to move forward with the plan. Missouri had sought a temporary restraining order to block the detonation. It was not immediately clear early Friday whether Missouri planned to appeal Limbaugh's denial of the order.

John McManus, an assistant Missouri attorney general, had argued the break would unleash a torrent of water that would carve a channel through prime farmland, flood about 90 homes and displace 200 people. The rush of water also stood to cause an environmental catastrophe, sweeping away everything from fertilizer to diesel fuel, propane tanks, pesticides and other toxins, McManus and some of the four witnesses who testified for the state suggested Thursday.

Attorneys for the corps and the state of Illinois countered that the farmers already have land that's flooded and have been given ample notice to clear their properties of anything toxic. The state of Illinois and the town of Cairo argue the well-being of Cairo's 2,800 residents outweighs farmland that would be swallowed up by the rush.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2011

Will He or Won’t He? Mitch Daniels Planned Parenthood Dilemma

Indiana's governor has a tough choice to make soon. And it's not about whether he'll run for president.

This issue is much closer to home.

This week, the Republican-led Indiana House voted to approve a bill that would cut all funding to Planned Parenthood. The Indiana Senate approved the measure earlier this month. In all, the pregnancy planning agency would lose $3 million and could force the closure of several offices statewide.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, has said he doesn't want state or federal lawmakers to worry about social issues right now.

He wants them to concentrate on all things dealing with the budget, which he says threatens America's future.

"I haven't gotten involved in those things (social issues). I have said that I think they ought to concentrate on the debt problem," Daniels said. "So, these other things aren't unimportant but I just don't think anything should get in the way of making a very bold move before our whole American dream comes crashing down."

If Daniels signs the bill, state would also lose $4 million in federal family planning grants.

But signing the bill would likely give Daniels more support with conservatives who oppose abortion if he decides to seek GOP nomination for president.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2011

Il. Supreme Court Considers Allowing Jurors to Question Witnesses

The Illinois Supreme Court is looking at a proposal to give jurors the right to ask witnesses questions during civil trials.

The questions could be modified or excluded after being reviewed by the attorneys and the judge in a case.

"The judge would read or provide a copy of the juror questions to all the lawyers in the case," Supreme Court spokesman Joe Tybor said. "It would give those attorneys an opportunity to object to any question."

Tybor said if a juror's question is presented to a witness, the judge would then allow attorneys to ask follow-up questions.

Supporters of the plan say this measure would provide lawyers with signals of a juror's focus, and encourage jurors to be more observant during a court case.

But some critics say allowing jurors to publicly talk about a case before closing arguments could jeopardize a final verdict.

"It might skew the results of the process that we have refined over the last several hundred years," said Urbana Attorney Tom Bruno, who chairs the Illinois State Bar Association. "Often just by the nature of questions that the questioner is asking, you can see where their mind is going with it or what their thoughts are on it."

Bruno added he is also concerned this proposal could delegitimize the role of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

"Part of this notion that the jury may think up better questions than my opponent could think up assumes the opposing council isn't smart enough or sharp enough or clever enough to think of asking these questions themselves," Bruno said.

The Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee will hold a public hearing for community input about the proposal on Friday, May 20, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago.

The measure would have to be approved by the Rules Committee, and then the full Supreme Court.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2011

Cherry Orchard Landlords to Appear in Court for Violating Judge’s Ruling

The Champaign County State's Attorney's Office has filed an Indirect Criminal Contempt petition against the landlords of the Cherry Orchard Village apartments.

During a bench trial earlier this month, Bernard and Eduardo Ramos were convicted of violating a local health ordinance by failing to legally connect the property's sewer and septic systems. They must pay more than $54,000 in fines, and are barred from housing tenants until the property is brought up to code.

But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Champaign County Sheriffs Deputies and Public Health District officials have confirmed people are still living there.

"The petition alleges that despite the judge's order Champaign County Sheriffs Deputies and Public Health District officials have confirmed that people are still residing in the complex," Rietz said in a statement.

The Ramoses must appear in court on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 2:30 to answer the petition.

Cherry Orchard is located right outside of Rantoul, and has traditionally housed migrant workers.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 27, 2011

Overlooked’ Still a Priority at Ebert’s 13th Annual Film Fest

The word 'overlooked' is no longer part of the title in Urbana native Roger Ebert's annual film festival.

But the director of the 13th annual event at the Virginia Theater in Champaign says it's still a large part of the mission. Nate Kohn says attendees may be surprised with some of the names attached to the screening, including the Friday night movie, a love story that will be accompanied by Director Norman Jewison.

"Very few people are familiar with the film 'Only You', and yet it stars Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei, pretty prominent names," said Kohn. "I think that's a good example. Most people cite 'In the Heat of the Night' as (Jewison's) best-known film."

Jewison has been nominated for five Academy Awards, winning an honorary Oscar in 1999. Other guests appearing with their work including actress Tilda Swinton, and directors Richard Linklater and Tim Blake Nelson.

Kohn says usually, Friday afternoon is reserved for annual viewing of a silent film accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. But he says Fritz Lang's vision of the future from 1927, with missing footage, will be among the festival's biggest highlights Wednesday evening.

"Because 'Metropolis' was just recently restored to its full length, some missing footage was found in Argentina..." said Kohn. "We thought it was signifcant enough to move it to the opening night film."

'Metropolis' is among those listed in Ebert's 1998 'Great Movies' essay. Meanwhile, free panel discussions will be held at the University of Illinois' Illini Union beginning at 9 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning.

Kohn admits the traffic presents a challenge with the Illinois Marathon going on at the same time Saturday. But he says coordinators worked with Champaign police so transportation could flow as smoothly as possible.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 27, 2011

Indiana Poised to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

Indiana is poised to become the first state to cut all government funding for Planned Parenthood.

The move would be a significant victory for anti-abortion activists but could pose a political predicament for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels as he considers running for president.

The Indiana House voted 66-32 Wednesday to cut off the $3 million in federal money the state distributes to the organization for family planning and health programs. The Senate approved the measure earlier this month.

Indiana risks losing $4 million in federal family planning grants if Daniels signs the bill.

A veto could antagonize ardent conservatives wary of Daniels' calls for a truce on "social issues" to focus on the economy. But signing the bill also could provide the political cover he needs from critical social conservatives.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 27, 2011

Flooding Prompts Debate between Mo. Farmers and Il. Residents

The Army Corps of Engineers is waiting to decide if it will intentionally break a levee to help relieve flooding problems in a Southern Illinois town. But farmers in Missouri are objecting to the plan.

Flooding in Cairo, Illinois is so bad, more than 100 people have been evacuated. It's a town of 2,800 residents at the southern tip of Illinois between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

"I'm 50 years old, and I can't recall seeing it higher before," said Sheila Simon, Illinois' lieutenant governor.

She said she hopes the water levels start to go down, or else the Army Corps might have to poke holes in a Mississippi River levee near Cairo.

But farmers in Missouri say that would flood their land and ruin crops. In a statement, Blake Hurst, the head of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said 130,000 acres of farmland could be destroyed.

Missouri has filed a lawsuit to block efforts to break the levee. A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Categories: Government, Politics

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